One of the great sacrifices of Christian love is prayer. Elisabeth Elliot said, “Prayer is irksome. We are reluctant to start and delighted to end.” This is true for so many Christians: what a tragedy. Martin Luther said, “The less I pray, the harder it gets. The more I pray, the better it goes.” Prayer is a sacrifice of great love and familial tenderness.
Our church is focusing love on us during this time of indescribable grief. One of the ways they are showing love to us is by having a prayer vigil in our yard tonight.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before You,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
From 7-8:30pm pacific standard time, our front yard will be specifically designated as a place for prayer. People will bring blankets and candles, and will pray silently with us & for us. They will pray for our grief; they will pray for my physical healing; they will pray that we will have victory over our medical problems; they will pray that we will be given children. Our hearts are warmed at the knowledge that our brothers and sisters in Christ want to uphold us before the Throne of Grace, want to designate a time & place to be with us in our mourning, and that they are even willing to do this in the rain/snow that chills to the bone. We are loved. We are upheld. We are mourned with. Hallelujah, what a blessing.
If you would like to pray with us tonight, please join our vigil beseeching the Lord’s mercy and grace upon our family. We humbly invite you to participate with us as the body of Christ, as we come to the Lord asking for bread.
Let my prayer come before You;
incline Your ear to my cry!
Elisabeth Elliot shares some thoughts on prayer:
Prayer is the opposite of leisure. It’s something to be engaged in, not indulged in. It’s a job you give first priority to, performing not when you have energy left for nothing else.
How can we change things by prayer? How “move” a sovereign and omnipotent God? We do not understand. We simply obey because it is a law of the universe, as we obey other laws of the universe, knowing only that this is how things have been arranged: the book falls to the floor in obedience to the law of gravity if I let go of it. Spiritual power is released through prayer.
One way of laying down our lives is by praying for somebody. In prayer I am saying, in effect, “my life for yours.” My time, my energy, my thought, my concern, my concentration, my faith–here they are, for you. So it is that I participate in the work of Christ. So it is that no work of faith, no labour of love, no smallest prayer is ever lost, but, like the smoke of the incense on the golden altar, rises from the hand of the angel before God.
As children of God, we must continually grow in our knowledge of & love for communion with Him through prayer. There are different types of prayer for different occasions. Public prayer. Private prayer. Long prayers. Short prayers. Prayers of blessing. Prayers of praise. Prayers of intercession. Prayers of desperation. Prayers for deliverance. Prayers of thankfulness. Prepared prayers. Prayers off-the-cuff. All kinds of prayer, but offered through faith and with a sincere heart, are necessary and even beautiful for the Christian life.
I love this article, highlighting John Calvin’s thoughts/beliefs on prayer.
Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is, and in how may ways the exercise of prayer is profitable. Surely with good reason the Heavenly Father affirms that the only stronghold of safety is calling upon His name. By so doing we invoke the presence both of His providence, through which He watches over and guards our affairs, and of His power, through which He sustains us, weak as we are and well-nigh overcome, and of His goodness, through which He receives us, miserably burdened with sins, unto grace: and, in short, it is by prayer that we call Him to reveal Himself as wholly present to us. Hence comes an extraordinary peace and repose to our consciences. For having disclosed to the Lord the necessity that was pressing upon us, we even rest fully in the thought that none of our ills is hid from Him who, we are convinced, has both the will and the power to take the best care of us.
~John Calvin, The institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter 20, Part 2.
One thing that I think is perfectly simple yet incredibly profound, is the idea that we don’t pray because we are needy. We pray because we are commanded to do so. It is a grace to us that we are commanded to ask for provision when we are in need. How beautiful! Calvin, as is his custom, reads Scripture so very closely as to note that while prayer is God’s appointed means of meeting our needs, our needs are never the ground of prayer. Prayer is grounded in the command of God. Ultimately we are to pray not because we are ceaselessly needy, but rather because God’s command and claim are ceaselessly operative.
Today I pray one of Calvin’s own prayers, and seek to pray with sincerity and steadfastness:
Grant, Almighty God, that as Thou not only invitest us continually by the voice of Thy gospel to seek Thee, but also offerest to us Thy Son as our mediator, through whom an access to Thee is open, that we may find Thee a propitious Father; O grant, that relying on Thy kind invitation, we may through life exercise ourselves in prayer, and as so many evils disturb us on all sides and so many wants distress and oppress us, may we be led more earnestly to call on Thee, and in the meanwhile be never wearied in this exercise of prayer; until having been heard by Thee throughout life, we may at length be gathered to Thine eternal kingdom where we shall enjoy that salvation which Thou hast promised to us, and of which also Thou daily testifiest to us by Thy gospel, and be forever united to Thine only-begotten Son of whom we are now members, that we may be partakers of all the blessings which He has obtained for us by His death. Amen.
Scripture is such a gift to us for so many reasons, one of which is because it gives us countless prayers to offer back to our God, even (or especially) when we don’t know what to offer from our own lips. The book of psalms is the first place I go when I have no words of my own to pray. We must learn to pray back God’s Word to Him again. Martin Luther recommended Psalms 25, 67, 20, & 103 as well as the book of Titus as great springboards for praying Scripture to God.
And lastly, this is my favorite hymn on prayer, which I use today without melody simply as a spoken prayer:
Lord, teach us how to pray aright,
With reverence and with fear;
Though dust and ashes in Thy sight,
We may, we must draw near.
We perish if we cease from prayer;
O grant us power to pray;
And when to meet Thee we prepare,
Lord, meet us by the way.
God of all grace, we come to Thee
With broken, contrite hearts;
Give what Thine eye delights to see,
Truth in the inward parts.
Faith in the only sacrifice
That can for sin atone;
To cast our hopes, to fix our eyes,
On Christ, on Christ alone.
Patience to watch, and wait, and weep,
Though mercy long delay;
Courage our fainting souls to keep,
And trust Thee though Thou slay.
Give these, and then Thy will be done,
Thus, strengthened with all might,
We, through Thy Spirit and Thy Son,
Shall pray, and pray aright.
~James Montgomery, 1818~
Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
So with these thoughts and exhortations on prayer as a background, please join us tonight in our vigil, beseeching our Father’s grace.
Pray for us to pray rightly.
Pray for us to be humble.
Pray for us (including our extended family) to grieve in a way that befits sons of God.
Pray for Gabriel as he asks questions, sees tears, and deals with grief in his own little ways.
Pray for my body to heal.
Pray for our miscarriages to cease.
Pray for us to have wisdom with upcoming medical decisions.
Pray for God to fill our home with children.
Pray for the Lord not to tarry in pouring blessings upon our heads.
Pray for us to patiently wait for Him and upon Him.
Pray for the body of Christ to be blessed even as they seek to bless us.
Pray for us to be gracious recipients of these blessings & graces.
Pray for our neighbors to see the prayer vigil tonight & have their hearts softened by God Almighty.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen. (Numbers 6:24-25)